On a Mission
Dr. Tim Zielinski is a busy man. This spring he was busier than ever.
When his dental practice in Mason, Michigan, temporarily closed due to COVID-19, he saw a surge in patients at Care Free Medical in Lansing where he volunteers his talents.
Care Free Medical is a safety-net clinic providing medical, dental, optometry and behavioral health care to people with limited access to the health care system.
The Delta Dental Foundation has been a longtime supporter of Care Free Medical and in the past year provided $26,000 in support of their dental services. The clinic treats thousands of area patients each year by offering low-cost preventive hygiene care and monthly extraction clinics through a compassionate group of volunteer dentists along with one part-time paid dentist.
Because emergency rooms became overrun with high-need patients dealing with complications due to COVID-19, more and more patients without insurance visited safety-net clinics like Care Free to relieve their dental pain.
“It’s a mission for me to go in there and help these people. They can’t go to the ERs right now,” Zielinski said in March.
He saw up to 30 people a day at Care Free, about 10 more patients a day than he normally would.
“It’s a tear-jerking thing to see these people, but we get them in and take care of them. It’s like a Monopoly game,” Zielinski said. “We have to get the puzzle right.”
He witnessed hugs, kisses, tears and joy from patients who are grateful for the care they’ve received.
“They are just so relieved to get that infection or tooth out that they’ve waited months and months for,” he said.
It’s a tear-jerking thing to see these people, but we get them in and take care of them. It’s like a Monopoly game. We have to get the puzzle right.
—Dr. Tim Zielinski